Computer Crime Research Center


Judge lifts gag order on Boston travelcard-hack

Date: August 21, 2008

Three Massachusetts Institute of Technology students who had been barred by a court order from discussing travel-smartcard vulnerabilities can now discuss the flaws.

In a ruling on Tuesday, a federal judge in Boston let a 10-day-old gag order expire. The order had been imposed at the request of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), to prevent the students giving a talk on travel-smartcard vulnerabilities at the Defcon security conference.

On Tuesday, US district judge George O'Toole Jr refused to grant a preliminary injunction requested by the MBTA that would have blocked the students from talking about their findings until 1 January, 2009.

The MIT students planned to make a presentation at Defcon on security vulnerabilities on the Massachusetts transit authority's electronic card and ticketing system. But a different federal judge blocked the presentation after MBTA sued the students and MIT.

Judge O'Toole said he disagreed with the basic premise of the MBTA's argument: that the students' presentation was likely to be a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a 1986 federal law meant to protect computers from malicious attacks such as worms and viruses.
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